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Tag ‘ Farm Bill ’

A Challenging Week

Guest post by Kelsey Kobayashi: This summer our family participated in the Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. For five days we needed to budget for and live on $4 per day per person [the national average for an individual receiving SNAP benefits]. There were 3 of us (2 adults and 1 child) participating, so our starting budget was $60. We were allowed to use what was already in our kitchen so as not to waste food. (We did not stock up but we had a few leftovers, and some staples). Before shopping for the week we spent time planning what to buy. We thought about what foods would be the healthiest choices, and would yield the most meals. We focused on protein, fruits & veggies. A dozen eggs, a bag of dried beans, a bag of frozen chicken, a block of cheddar cheese, peanut butter, a big bag of oranges, a bunch of bananas, some frozen veggies and a loaf of whole grain bread actually got us pretty far!

We spent a total of $41 on groceries that week, but the experience was priceless. It was certainly not easy. We felt the growling tummies, weakness and low energy from consuming fewer calories. We noticed that eating the same thing over and over, no matter how delicious, gets boring. As a mother I felt what it would be like not to be able to give my child a variety of fresh and healthy foods, and worse – the worry of not being able to feed them anything at all at times. We learned to appreciate not only our access to basic nutrition, but also the luxuries that make life interesting and enjoyable, like having friends over for dinner, baking cookies with the kids, a cup of coffee in the morning, or a bowl of ice cream for dessert. But most importantly we were alerted to what a huge problem hunger is right here in our own community, and found out how easy it is to help.

For ways to help, visit www.foodbankccs.org/givehelp.

Farm Bill Update: SNAP Cuts Pass House Ag Commitee

From the St. Anthony Foundation blog written by Colleen Rivecca, Advocacy Coordinator: Thanks to everyone who joined in on the national call-in day to support SNAP in the Farm Bill.  Here’s an update on the Farm Bill action from July 11.

On Wednesday, July 11, the House Agriculture Committee voted to accept $16 billion in cuts over 10 years to SNAP (the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”, also known as “food stamps” or “CalFresh” here in California).  A group of Representatives (Reps. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Joe Baca of California, Peter Welch of Vermont, Marcia Fudge of Ohio and Terri Sewell of Alabama) attempted to reinstate $16 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, but their amendment failed on a 15 to 31 vote.

What would the $16 billion in cuts to SNAP mean for California?

  • Put restrictions on the use of “Categorical Eligibility”.  In California, AB 433 of 2008 (one of our Hunger Action Day bills) implemented modified Categorical Eligibility in California, extending CalFresh to individuals whose income is low enough for them to qualify but who have assets (savings, retirement funds) that would make them ineligible.  Restricting the use of Categorical Eligibility in California  would make approximately 177,000 low-income households ineligible for CalFresh.
  • Put restrictions on the use of the “Heat and Eat” option.  In California, AB 6 of 2011 (another one of our Hunger Action Day bills) will, starting January 1, 2013, increase CalFresh benefits by $43/month for about 200,000 California households by allowing them to automatically qualify for a deduction for utility payments.  The Farm Bill amendment to restrict the use of Heat and Eat will limit states’ abilities to automatically allow for a utility deduction.

What happened and why?

SNAP enrollment has risen from 19 million in 2002 to 46 million in 2012.  Those who favor cutting SNAP see SNAP spending as a drain on the economy and are trying to cut costs by identifying what they call “loopholes” used by states to ease SNAP enrollment.  Two of the “loopholes” they’re trying to close are Categorical Eligibility and Heat and Eat. As House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas stated, “SNAP’s resources have been stretched because this administration has encouraged states to take liberties in how the program is administered”.

Anti-Hunger advocates who support SNAP see the program as an important economic stimulus and point out that SNAP enrollment is supposed to rise during times of economic difficulty, when more people are experiencing job loss, poverty, and hunger.  As the economy improves, SNAP enrollment rates will go down.  The Congressional Budget Office projects that the share of the population that participates in SNAP will fall back to 2008 levels in coming years and that SNAP costs as a share of the economy will fall back to their 1995 level by 2019.

Anti-hunger advocates see streamlining efforts such as Categorical Eligibility and Heat and Eat not as loopholes, but as tools to reduce administrative burdens on states and on SNAP participants while helping to ensure that hungry low-income people are able to access nutrition benefits.  Categorical eligibility helps low-wage working families with children and seniors with modest savings to qualify for SNAP.   Heat and Eat helps reduce paperwork and allows low-income people who don’t have utility bills in their name, but who still pay utility costs, to receive a SNAP benefit that is above the minimum benefit level of $16 per month.  A cut to Heat and Eat would disproportionately affect seniors, the disabled, and working poor families with children.

Next Steps:

There is still a lot of dissention in the House of Representatives around the Farm Bill.  Although it has passed through the House Agriculture Committee, there doesn’t seem to be much support for the bill in the full House.  The more conservative members of the House would like to see the bill’s price tag cut down further.  The more liberal members of the House don’t like the Farm Bill in its current form because of the SNAP cuts.

To further complicate matters, the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill differs significantly from the House’s version.  It is unclear at this point whether either house of Congress will bring the Farm Bill to the floor for a vote before the current version of the bill expires in September. They may decide to extend the current Farm Bill until the November election and to deal with creating a new Farm Bill at a less politically contentious time.

We will continue to keep you updated on upcoming opportunities to contact your representatives and advocate for a fair Farm Bill that does not hurt hungry people.

Senate Passes Farm Bill

The Farm Bill that passed the Senate yesterday preserves the strong structure of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps). We commend the Senate for rejecting amendments that would have crippled the program and left millions of people who rely on the program for basic food poorer, hungrier, and unhealthier. The attacks by some lawmakers on the strongest part of the safety net for millions of low-income seniors, working parents and other adults, unemployed families with children, people with disabilities, members of the Armed Services and veterans, and others were outrageous.

Thank you Senators Boxer and Feinstein for voting against the harmful amendments and being two of just 33 senators who stood up to protect SNAP by voting in support of the Gillibrand amendment. Our only wish is that more Senators had done the same as the bill that was passed does contain a $4.5 billion cut to SNAP that will harm large numbers of struggling families. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), an estimated 500,000 households a year will lose $90 per month in SNAP benefits.

These are real cuts with real consequences – they mean lost meals for Americans who are already hungry. As the Farm Bill moves through the rest of the process, we will work with our elected officials and national partners, FRAC and Feeding America, to produce a final bill with no cuts to SNAP and that preserves the strong structure of the program. No community is free from hunger, and it is time for Congress to tackle this challenge with the urgency the situation demands.

We won’t be able to make a change without your help! Stay tuned for action alerts as the Farm Bill continues.

Assemblymember Yamada Marks June as National Hunger Awareness Month and Invites You to Take the Hunger Challenge

Guest post by Mariko Yamada, California Assemblymember, 8th Assembly District

Dear Friends,

In California, over 6 million people are hungry or live in fear of going hungry. As more Californians have difficulty making ends meet, the number of people receiving CalFresh/Supplemental Nutritional Assistants Program or SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) benefits has greatly increased. Still, according to federal statistics, California has the lowest participation rate of all the states. In Solano and Yolo counties combined, the under enrollment in CalFresh means we are missing out on an estimated $70.5 million in federal funds each year.

In order to draw attention to the importance and continued need of SNAP/CalFresh, I invite you to join me in taking the “Hunger Challenge” this year from June 11th to June 15th, 2012.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture which administers SNAP, the average weekly food stamp benefit is $22.30 – that’s $4.46 per day, or just $1.49 per meal. So the rules are simple: Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner spending only $1.49 a meal for five days or $22.30 total. The challenge is to see if healthy, tasty meals can be prepared on the same grocery budget used by millions of Americans receiving food assistance.

This will be my fourth year participating in the Challenge as a Legislator and every year I learn again just how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with very limited resources. You can follow my experiences living on the food assistance budget and learn how you too can take the Challenge on both the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano County blog and the Food Bank of Yolo County blog.

To find out if you are eligible to receive CalFresh benefits, use this online tool. To find your local CalFresh enrollment office or to learn more on food assistance in Solano and Yolo Counties, please visit my website.

Together we can work to end hunger for all.

Sincerely,

Mariko Yamada
Assemblymember, 8th Assembly District

The Farm Bill is Coming

The Farm Bill is coming! Are you asking “what in the world is the Farm Bill and why should I care?” The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act is commonly known as the Farm Bill and covers a wide range of food and farming programs, including SNAP (formerly Food Stamps and currently known as CalFresh in California). The huge bill is renegotiated and voted upon by the Congress roughly every five years. 2012 is the lucky year.

The bill contains a lot of information and not many of us know much about it yet what’s in it affects every one of us every day.

I highly recommend you take the 13 minutes to watch this video from Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group. He gives a great overview of the bill and answers the question of why you should care AND tells you how you can help make a difference in this bill.

Here’s my CliffsNotes version in case you don’t have 13 minutes to watch right now.

What most people do know about the Farm Bill is it provides subsidies to farmers. This is true and it does help some family farmers but the system is broken as it currently stands. 60% of farms do not get subsidies. Currently nutrition programs receive $314 billion over five years through the Farm Bill. SNAP is the single largest item in the bill and it should be. Half of the SNAP recipients are children, extremely poor children. A family of three cannot qualify if they make more than $23,000 a year and the average benefit is $4.50 per day.

I was happy to hear that while EWG is an environmental organization (duh) their top priority in the Farm Bill – or Food Bill as Mr. Cook calls it – is to serve low income people. In his talk, Mr. Cook also mentions that we (Americans) have not invested in organic like the Europeans have and in this next bill, we should be helping farmers convert.

According to the American time use survey, we spend 28 minutes a day eating while doing something else (snacking) and 87 minutes a day drinking something other than water. What Mr. Cook is asking in this video is for all of us to give three snacking or drinking moments over the year and call your member of congress. Tell them you want a Farm Bill that’s a Food Bill, that protects low income people, that protects the land and that invests in organic and healthier school lunches. Can you do that?

Let us know when you make a call by commenting below or on our Facebook page. Thank you!